Friday, January 25, 2013
It's not that BigLaw starting salaries for inexperienced associates aren't way too high, it's that cutting those salaries won't create jobs where none exist. But hey, it sure sounds like a good idea. An excerpt from Professor Lawrence Sloan's (Brooklyn) editorial in the Huffington Post.
Much of what is driving the diminution in opportunities for law school graduates at elite law firms is the fact that business clients have become less willing to pay high hourly rates for teams of novices. Instead, clients have insisted on far more efficient service, including the outsourcing of discovery and the implementation of computer algorithms to reduce costs. When lawyers without much experience are needed, clients often hire their own contract lawyers on a short-term basis, or insist that their outside counsel do so. The result is a decrease in the need for inexperienced lawyers.
. . . .
The crucial question facing both legal educators and the legal profession, then, is how to get newly minted lawyers through the first couple of years so that they gain enough knowledge and experience to become "adult lawyers" capable of producing high professional caliber work.
Here is a simple proposal to address at least part of the problem: If clients are not willing to pay top dollar for the work of inexperienced associates, hire the associates at lower salaries, and give them substantial raises as their value increases.
Consider a firm that pays base salaries of $150,000, $165,000 and $180,000 respectively to first, second and third year associates and offers them annual raises of $10,000-$15,000. These figures are within the range of what large firms are paying, according to the National Associate for Law Placement (NALP), which conducts annual surveys. In the current economic climate, the firm has kept these salaries steady, but has cut back on the number of associates it hires because it is no longer possible to bill clients as aggressively for the associates' time.
Why not cut associate pay in the early years? For example, offer them $75,000, $125,000 and $175,000 for the first three years, respectively. This salary cut will permit firms to continue to train the next generation of elite lawyers in substantial numbers, while shifting some of the cost of training its most junior associates from the clients to the trainees themselves. Moreover, although large firms face pressure to remain competitive, the promise of these substantial raises should be a significant enticement to attract the best talent. Finally, savvy business clients will respect and choose firms that honestly link compensation to the realities of the market.
This system would more resemble the training of physicians, who must spend years in internships and residencies with relatively low compensation and grueling hours before they are considered sufficiently competent to practice on their own at much higher levels of income. A system that would require law graduates to bear some of the costs of their training, similar to their peers in medical school, seems logical and efficient, and may be especially appropriate in these economic times.
. . . .
Continue reading here.
In the titles of law review articles, authors frequently insert colons. In other situations, I believe that writers often fail to use colons when their use could improve the writing. And sometimes there is confusion about the conventional rules for using colons. Here are sets of rules from two authoritative sources, with examples.
From GrammarBook.com, here are the most significant rules:
Use the colon after a complete sentence to introduce a list of items when introductory words such as namely, for example, or that is do not appear.
You may be required to bring many items: sleeping bags, pans, and warm clothing.
I want the following items: butter, sugar, and flour.
I want an assistant who can do the following: (1) input data, (2) write reports, and (3) complete tax forms.
A colon should not precede a list unless it follows a complete sentence; however, the colon is a style choice that some publications allow.
If a waitress wants to make a good impression on her customers and boss, she should (a) dress appropriately, (b) calculate the bill carefully, and (c) be courteous to customers.
There are three ways a waitress can make a good impression on her boss and her customers:
(a) Dress appropriately.
(b) Calculate the bill carefully.
(c) Be courteous to customers.
I want an assistant who can (1) input data, (2) write reports, and (3) complete tax forms.
From the Guide to Writing and Grammar, sponsored by the Capital Community College Foundation:
Use a colon [ : ] before a list or an explanation that is preceded by a clause that can stand by itself. Think of the colon as a gate, inviting one to go on:
There is only one thing left to do now: confess while you still have time.
The charter review committee now includes the following people:
the chief of police
the fire chief
the chair of the town council
You nearly always have a sense of what is going to follow or be on the other side of the colon. (Compare the function of a semicolon in this regard.) You will find differing advice on the use of a colon to introduce a vertical or display list. See Using Numbers and Creating Lists.
We will often use a colon to separate an independent clause from a quotation (often of a rather formal nature) that the clause introduces:
The acting director often used her favorite quotation from Shakespeare's Tempest: "We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep."
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Neuroscience is one of the tools that defense lawyers have adopted in recent years. However, because it is so new, there have been a number of questions concerning its use in criminal law. A recent article in the ABA Journal, Brain Trials: Neuroscience Is Taking a Stand in the Courtroom by Kevin Davis, introduces the use of neuroscience in criminal cases and discusses some of these questions.
Davis writes, "The case illustrates one of the challenges that lawyers, judges and defendants face in cases that bring together neuroscience and the law, where trying to explain the brain and human behavior can clash with how the legal system determines culpability, competency and the manner in which such cases should be handled. Defense lawyers are increasingly introducing high-tech brain images and citing studies that link brain injury and violence to explain, excuse or mitigate criminal behavior."
He continues, "Organizations such as the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience—a cooperative of scientists, lawyers and researchers seeking to better understand this intersection of modern neuroscience and criminal law—are helping to sort through the morass. The network, funded through a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, is headquartered at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and led by Owen Jones, a professor of law and biology at Vanderbilt. 'There has been a growing use of neuroscience and the law, and one of the questions we have is how to interpret the neuroscience in a way that’s appropriate,' Jones says. 'It’s one of those things that holds both promise and terror for the legal system.' Jones warns that neuroscientific evidence must be viewed and interpreted cautiously. 'Once you start going down this path that there’s this quirk in the brain that makes me not responsible for my actions, that makes people understandably concerned,' he says. 'It has to be weighed with other evidence.'”
The article quotes another law professor: "Nita Farahany, a professor of law and genome sciences and policy at Duke University, has been tracking criminal cases in which lawyers have introduced neuroscientific evidence since 2004. By combing legal opinions, she’s found about 2,000 examples, with 600 of those cases in 2011 alone. 'It’s increased exponentially,' Farahany says. And my database doesn’t even include cases that are settled before trial or never get to the appeals process.' Farahany found neuroscientific evidence was most often used for capital mitigation, followed by competency hearings; the rest was presented during the guilt phases of a trial. She says about 20 percent of trials in which such evidence was used resulted in 'favorable outcomes' for criminal defendants, which includes reduction of charges or sentences. 'In some cases, the introduction of neuroscientific evidence has mitigated the extent of a defendant’s liability, but I am not aware of a case in which such evidence has exonerated a criminal defendant,' Farahany says.
The question of legal competency for those with brain injuries. . . is an area that deserves greater scrutiny, Farahany asserts. Brain-injured defendants may not fit the standard definition. It may be something like they have poor memory, are more impulsive than most, or are unable to exercise sound judgment, she says. In these cases, the ability of the criminal defendant to assist in their own defense is really quite limited. And yet this isn’t the way courts traditionally approach competency."
You can read the rest of the article here.
LSSSE data suggest that students benefit tremendously from their relationships with professors. Our analysis reveals that interaction with faculty relates significantly to students’ perceptions of their own gains in both academic and personal dimensions. Student-faculty interaction influences students’ assessment of their writing, speaking, and legal research skills; job or work-related knowledge and skills; and critical and analytical thinking, among other factors. In terms of personal development, student-faculty interaction positively relates to students’ understanding of themselves and others, and to their development of a personal code of values and ethics and a sense of contribution to the welfare of the community. Finally, interaction with faculty also relates positively to students’ report of their grades.
Interaction with faculty not only affects students’ sense of development, it also affects their overall level of satisfaction with law school. LSSSE data show that student-faculty interaction is strongly related to students’ likelihood of choosing the same law school again and of their evaluation of their entire educational experience. Similarly, student-faculty interaction also relates positively to students’ sense of the supportiveness of the law school environment and to their perception of the emphasis their coursework places on higher order learning activities.
Clearly, faculty matter to students. Given the strong benefit to students of these interactions with faculty, it is reassuring to note that LSSSE data do not show significant differences among different groups of students in levels of student-faculty interaction. No significant differences with regard to the amount of interaction with faculty are evident based on students’ race, ethnicity, or gender. While students with lower LSAT scores are slightly less likely to interact with faculty, and students who report higher grades in law school are slightly more likely to interact with faculty, these relationships were small but significant. More influential in terms of faculty interaction are student behaviors (asking questions in class) and activities (moot court and law journal participation, and leading a law school organization), suggesting that students who are more inclined to speak up in class also are more likely to seek out professors to discuss assignments and issues, and those who involve themselves in co-curricular activities may have more opportunities to work with faculty who are advisors. Generally, law students report positive relationships with faculty. Nearly half of students (45%) report that their instructors are highly supportive and encouraging. More than a third of students (38%) feel that their professors care about them as individuals. Fifty-seven percent report feeling strongly that faculty respect students.
Despite these positive results, LSSSE data also suggest that students’ interactions with professors are limited in scope. While half of students frequently discuss assignments with faculty, 25% have never talked with them outside of class about course issues or readings. Nineteen percent of students have never talked to an instructor about an issue unrelated to coursework. One-third of students have never talked to a professor about which courses to take in law school, and one-quarter of students have never talked to a faculty member about career plans or career advice.
These data underscore the impact that faculty can have on student growth, student outcomes—even student satisfaction with the law school experience as a whole. While our findings aver the importance of student-faculty interaction, they also suggest that additional opportunities exist for more meaningful interaction. Law schools may draw on these findings in considering strategies to promote and facilitate such interaction.
Check out the full report here.
I just learned of the passing of Gary Munneke. Gary was a pioneer in bringing the practicalities of law office management to legal education. He and I overlapped in our student days at the University of Texas Law School and usually chatted for a moment when we saw each other at the AALS January meeting. I recalled not running into him earlier this month in New Orleans. When you read his works you quickly realize that he deeply cared about students.
Here is the memorial in the most recent edition of the ABA's Syllabus:
Gary Munneke, professor at Pace University School of Law, passed away suddenly on Thanksgiving Day, November 22. A enthusiastic member and tireless leader of the American Bar Association, Gary was actively involved in the work of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, serving most recently as chair of the Finance Committee. He served as a member of the ABA Board of Governors and was recently a Section Office Council (SOC) liaison to the Board. Gary also devoted much time and energy to the ABA’s Law Practice Management Section including a term as Section chair. In 2011, Gary received that Section’s highest award, the Sam Smith Award, in recognition of his many contributions to its work.
A native of Texas, Gary earned both his undergraduate and law degrees at the University of Texas. Prior to joining Pace Law School, he worked at Widener University School of Law in Wilmington, Delaware, and the University of Baltimore School of Law. He was a prolific writer, well-known for his books on law practice management and non-legal careers for lawyers. Gary was also well-known for his zest for life, infectious laugh, and generous support of his students and colleagues.
In a resolution adopted at its November 30 meeting, the Council of the Section expressed its condolences on behalf of the Section to Gary’s wife, Sharon Walla, to his children and grandchildren and to the extended family. “We appreciated Gary as a person and as a professional. We very much regret his passing. We will miss him.”
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Here are the details:
Assistant Dean position open at Charlotte School of Law
Charlotte School of Law is seeking qualified applicants for the position of Assistant Dean of Student Success. The Assistant Dean position oversees the management of Charlotte Law’s Academic Success and Bar Preparation functions. The position carries faculty status with eligibility for long-term renewable contracts. Visit their website (www.charlottelaw.edu) and click the “Join Our Team” link at the top of the page for official details and how to apply.Professor Christopher Woodyard is currently serving in the position on an interim basis and will be happy to discuss the role/team with interested individuals. You can email him directly at email@example.com.
State's Chief Judge Says Proposal To Allow Law Students To Take New York Bar After Two Years Is Worth Study
"I don't think there is anyone on a law school faculty or on the bench who would say, 'This is crazy,' " Lippman said. Citing the cost of law school, among other factors, he said the proposal "challenges all of us involved in legal education to, whatever the length of law school, look at how we can do better."
Full story here.
P.S. My criticism of the proposal is here.
From the National Jurist:
Five states will use the Uniform Bar Examination for the first time this summer, and two other states are slated to use it in 2014. That will bring the total number of states using the three-year-old exam to 13, and experts expect more in the near future.
Jim Rigos, owner of Rigos Professional Education Programs, said he expects a majority of the states will adopt the UBE within three years.
“It’s going to get to a point where the law schools and the students [in jurisdictions not using the exam] are at such a disadvantage, that there’s going to be a lot of pressure from the academic side of things and some of the firms to get on board,” he said.
The National Conference of Bar Examiners created the exam to allow lawyers to smoothly transfer their scores to other jurisdictions, instead of waiting months to retake another state’s bar exam.
“Students are the big beneficiaries of this,” said Erica Moeser, president of the NCBE, which created the exam. “If there’s one group that should care about the UBE, it’s the person who is currently enrolled in law school and is looking to take the bar exam, finding a job, and dealing with debt, especially in this economy.”
Six states already use the UBE, and five more will be on board this summer, with two more states waiting in the wings:
Missouri was the first state to adopt the exam, followed by Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho and North Dakota. This year Montana, Nebraska, Utah, Washington and Wyoming will offer the test for the first time. Minnesota and New Hampshire will accept the test beginning in 2014.
ALPS, the professional liability Insurance company offers great number of practice pointers and sample forms. Here is the list. The website has the links.
- Practice Pointers
- General Lawyers' Liability FAQs
- All About the Calendar
- Avoiding Client Communication Problems
- General Advice Regarding Office Sharing
- Handling Client Property
- Malpractice Insurance Application Tips
- Managing the Client
- Shortcuts to Avoid
- Trust Account Do's and Don'ts
- Rules Regarding the Billing & Collection of Fees
- Engagement Letter ABA Rules
- Website Disclaimers
- Non Engagement Letters
- Firm Split Notice
- File Opening Checklist
- Estate Planning Waiver
- Termination Letters 2
- Confidentiality and Non-disclosure Agreement
- Conflict of Interest Search Form
- Confidentiality Agreement for Staff
- Closing Letters
- Client Intake Form
- Client Questionnaire
- New Client New Matter Memo
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
We reported back in November that Vermont Law School was planning to make buyout offers to staff members in response to falling enrollment at the school which is part of a larger, national trend. Those buyouts have come to fruition according to a report in the Valley News. Ten staff members took the deal while two did not and have since been laid off. A spokesman for Vermont Law School said there is a similar buyout plan in the works for professors which will be sent out next month. The plan calls for those who are targeted to lose their salaries and instead either teach part-time or on a piecemeal, class-by-class basis. Those affected will be able to retain the title "professor" - a nice gesture under the circumstances though it will fill neither their wallets nor their gullets. Query whether the administration will target professors who are near retirement age and hence the most "expensive" members of the faculty or will it instead choose simply to not renew contract faculty and thus avoid the presumed hassle of declaring an economic exigency in order to lay off tenured faculty members.
Here are the details from the Valley News:
According to President Marc Mihaly, those [staff members] who took the buyout offers received severance packages based on the length of time they had worked at the school.
For the two who were laid off, Mihaly said, “we’ve sort of sweetened the sweet a pot a little” regarding payouts.
The downsizing comes as a result of fewer applications over the past three years, VLS officials said, a problem that exists for law schools nationwide as potential students, dissuaded by a lack of open law jobs, don’t bother to apply.
Westberg said that about 200 students are set to graduate with juris doctor degrees this spring. She said the school is predicting between 150 and 170 students to enroll this coming fall.
“Essentially, law schools across the country have to figure out how legal education is changing, and how to deal with fewer applicants,” Westberg said.
Although the school’s faculty members haven’t been affected yet, Mihaly said that a similar buyout program is in the planning stages for professors.
That plan would have professors retain their titles, but no longer be salaried, instead working on a part-time or class-to-class basis.
“It’s really not a separation, as much as a change in status,” Mihaly said.
Those offers will be sent to faculty members in early February, he said. He was unsure of the amount of full-time positions that would need to be excised, saying that depended on next year’s total enrollment.
“We just don’t know where we’re at yet,” he said. “We’ll know more mid-year.”
Hat tip to ATL.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on domain transfer--transferring knowledge and skills from one area to another area, such as using federalism principles in choice of law. (here) Teaching domain transfer to law students is important because they will need to apply the skills they learned in law school to a variety of domains in practice. Now, there is a good introduction to domain transfer in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Why Don't They Apply What They've Learned, Part I by James M. Lang, an English Professor at Assumption College.
Professor Lang writes, "In their excellent book, How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching, Susan Ambrose and her co-authors describe the cognitive activity of applying learned material from one course to another and beyond as 'far transfer.' They note correctly that it might be the most fundamental expectation we have for our students. 'Far transfer is, arguably,' they point out, 'the central goal of education: We want our students to be able to apply what they learn beyond the classroom.'"
He continues: "But in practice, as How Learning Works makes clear, 'far transfer' turns out to be a much more complicated process than many of us might expect, or that I might imply in my blithely hopeful syllabus talk. 'Most research has found,' the authors explain, 'that (a) transfer occurs neither often nor automatically, and (b) the more dissimilar the learning and transfer contexts, the less likely successful transfer will occur. In other words, much as we would like them to, students often do not successfully apply relevant skills or knowledge in novel contexts.'"
"To illustrate the difficulties of far transfer, Ambrose and her colleagues point to a fascinating study in which subjects read an article about a military maneuver that involved an army dividing up to conquer a fortress. After the participants had demonstrated their understanding of that challenge, they were given a medical problem which required a similar solution: attacking a tumor with laser treatments from multiple angles. 'Despite having just encountered the military solution,' they write, the large majority of students did not apply what they had learned [from the military maneuver] to the medical problem.'"
"Ambrose and her co-authors point to two reasons for the failure-to-transfer that all of us see sometimes in our students. First, they might tie whatever knowledge or skill we are teaching too closely to the context in which they learned it. Thus, students can write innovative opening paragraphs in my freshman-composition course, but in their other classes they continue to rely on the same strategies they learned in high school. Second, the inability to transfer a skill or information to a novel context might indicate shallow levels of learning. If students are capable of solving problems, writing essays, or answering questions according to some formula they have learned, they might not have grasped the underlying principles of our course content. Without that deeper knowledge of what lies beneath the formula, they can't pick up what they are learning and put it back down in an unrelated context."
He also cites to a book by James Zull: "Cognitive skills of any kind depend on the growth and modification of neuronal networks in our brain, as Zull explains in his book. But because these are networks, they only grow and expand by connecting with other nearby networks. In other words, knowledge and skills obtained within the context of one network—say, my English- literature course—will not immediately float up into some brainy ether and plop down wholesale into unrelated networks. 'Neuronal networks grow by building on existing networks,' Zull writes, 'so our entree to reasoning in one subject comes through the neuronal networks for the information in that subject. Often we don't have the networks that connect one subject with another. They have been built up separately, especially if we have studied in the standard curriculum that breaks knowledge into parts like math, language, science, and social science.'"
He concludes, "We can help students develop that skill—or, perhaps more accurately, that habit of mind—with some deliberate thinking and activity at the level of the specific course, the larger curriculum, and the institution as a whole. In next month's column, I will draw further on the work of Susan Ambrose and her co-authors, and pull in the conclusions of an excellent new book by Ken Bain, in order to provide some concrete strategies for helping students effect transfer both in and out of your courses."
(Scott Fruehwald) (hat tip: John Edwards)
The Business Insider posted this flow chart by a former BigLaw associate at an "unnamed" firm that offers a decision tree for deciding whether it's OK to leave the office for the evening. Of course it's a different calculus depending on whether you're an associate or partner. Enjoy!
You may want to pass this advice on to your students. Salary.com offers 15 Don’ts. Here are the first five:
- No personal grooming
- Don’t assemble sandwiches at your desk
- No excessive decorating
- No undressing. For example, taking off your shoes
- No buying and selling online
Pretty basic, I know, but if you have worked with students, you know that some of them need guidance in transitioning to the professional arena.
In January 1965, President Kennedy invited Robert Frost to read a poem at the inauguration. Because of the glare, Frost was unable to read the poem that he had written for the occasion (“Dedication”). Instead, he recited a poem that he knew by heart, “The Gift Outright.”
Here is Frost reciting “The Gift Outright.” And here is his poem “Dedication’:
Summoning artists to participate
In the august occasions of the state
Seems something artists ought to celebrate.
Today is for my cause a day of days.
And his be poetry’s old-fashioned praise
Who was the first to think of such a thing.
This verse that in acknowledgement I bring
Goes back to the beginning of the end
Of what had been for centuries the trend;
A turning point in modern history.
Colonial had been the thing to be
As long as the great issue was to see
What country’d be the one to dominate
By character, by tongue, by native trait,
The new world Christopher Columbus found.
The French, the Spanish, and the Dutch were downed
And counted out. Heroic deeds were done.
Elizabeth the First and England won.
Now came on a new order of the ages
That in the Latin of our founding sages
(Is it not written on the dollar bill
We carry in our purse and pocket still?)
God nodded his approval of as good.
So much those heroes knew and understood,
I mean the great four, Washington,
John Adams, Jefferson, and Madison
So much they saw as consecrated seers
They must have seen ahead what not appears,
They would bring empires down about our ears
And by the example of our Declaration
Make everybody want to be a nation.
And this is no aristocratic joke
At the expense of negligible folk.
We see how seriously the races swarm
In their attempts at sovereignty and form.
They are our wards we think to some extent
For the time being and with their consent,
To teach them how Democracy is meant.
“New order of the ages” did they say?
If it looks none too orderly today,
‘Tis a confusion it was ours to start
So in it have to take courageous part.
No one of honest feeling would approve
A ruler who pretended not to love
A turbulence he had the better of.
Everyone knows the glory of the twain
Who gave America the aeroplane
To ride the whirlwind and the hurricane.
Some poor fool has been saying in his heart
Glory is out of date in life and art.
Our venture in revolution and outlawry
Has justified itself in freedom’s story
Right down to now in glory upon glory.
Come fresh from an election like the last,
The greatest vote a people ever cast,
So close yet sure to be abided by,
It is no miracle our mood is high.
Courage is in the air in bracing whiffs
Better than all the stalemate an’s and ifs.
There was the book of profile tales declaring
For the emboldened politicians daring
To break with followers when in the wrong,
A healthy independence of the throng,
A democratic form of right divine
To rule first answerable to high design.
There is a call to life a little sterner,
And braver for the earner, learner, yearner.
Less criticism of the field and court
And more preoccupation with the sport.
It makes the prophet in us all presage
The glory of a next Augustan age
Of a power leading from its strength and pride,
Of young ambition eager to be tried,
Firm in our free beliefs without dismay,
In any game the nations want to play.
A golden age of poetry and power
Of which this noonday’s the beginning hour.
(Thnx to Brain Pickings).
Monday, January 21, 2013
Thanks to Professor Robert R. Kuehn for passing this along. Here are the details:
WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW invites applications for its Clinic Faculty Fellows program. The fellowship is designed to train talented lawyers to obtain an academic teaching post, ideally including clinical teaching, and to help provide teaching coverage in the School’s Clinical Education Program. The fellowship will provide mentoring to help the fellow develop clinical pedagogical skills and produce academic scholarship.
The fellow’s teaching assignment will be in the Criminal Justice Clinic (with Professor Peter Joy) and may include a course outside the clinic. In the Clinic, the Fellow will supervise students providing trial-level representation to persons charged with misdemeanors and felonies and teach a classroom component. Candidates should have significant experience practicing criminal law, demonstrate promise as a legal scholar and teacher, and have a commitment to pursuing a career in legal academia. Candidates must be eligible to practice law in Missouri (i.e., must be a member of the Missouri bar or eligible for admission as a law teacher without examination pursuant to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 13.06). Fellows receive a competitive salary along with employee benefits and support for research.
The fellow will be appointed for two academic years beginning July 1, 2013. The fellow is expected to participate in the entry-level teaching market beginning in fall 2014. The School’s prior fellows have obtained tenure-track positions at other schools.
Applicants should submit a resume, law school transcript, references, and brief description of the candidate’s scholarly agenda or interest in entering academia.
Washington University School of Law is committed to diversity and encourages applications from racial and ethnic groups, women, persons with disabilities, and other under-represented groups.
Submit application to: Professor Robert Kuehn, Associate Dean for Clinical Programs, Washington University School of Law, One Brookings Drive, Campus Box 1120, St. Louis, MO 63130-4899; firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis.
Legal writing expert and Black's Law Dictionary editor Bryan Garner has published a new book called the HBR [Harvard Business Review] Guide to Better Business Writing. It will be available from the Harvard Business Press Books on January 29, 2013 and can be bought here. The following is the publisher's synopsis:
DON'T LET YOUR WRITING HOLD YOU BACK. When you're fumbling for words and pressed for time, you might be tempted to dismiss good business writing as a nicety. But it's a skill you must cultivate to succeed: You'll lose time, money, and influence if your e-mails, proposals, and other important documents fail to win people over. The "HBR Guide to Better Business Writing," by writing expert Bryan A. Garner, gives you the tools you need to express your ideas clearly and persuasively so clients, colleagues, stakeholders, and partners will get behind them. This book will help you: (1) Push past writer's block, (2) Grab--and keep--readers' attention, (3) Earn credibility with tough audiences, (4) Trim the fat from your writing, (5) Strike the right tone, and (6) Brush up on grammar, punctuation, and usage.
Hat tip to Lynn Gaertner-Johnston's Business Writing blog.
Every kid's name won't be posted on the honor roll list. And every kid won't be admired for his stellar personality. Some are just good at being funny. Some are awesome singers, dancers, or instrumentalists. In fact, some students won't want to perform at all. They would rather design the show's stage banner, video record the event, or serve as an usher who passes out the programs. When did having good old fashioned fun and a measure of choice get pulled from the state learning standards? Oh, I forgot—fun and choice were never in there!
Once we figure out how to engage students on a human level and earn their trust, we are over half way there when it comes to making them academically successful.
The student vs. staff basketball games we played allowed the students to see their teachers in a new light—as people, not just as educators. Unfortunately, I'm now known as the person who can't jump, shoot, or stay up on her feet in a game.
The faculty-student basketball game is not for me. During basketball season, the high school gym class was always an embarrassing venue for me. I also shy away from any event that takes place in a bar. But I have had fun competing with (and beating) the students and my colleagues in the pasta sauce competition and bringing my wonderful dogs to our “blessing of the animals.”
Sunday, January 20, 2013
Professor Rip Verkerke has developed an innovative contracts course at the University of Virginia School of Law. (full story here) He received a grant "to convert a fall-semester course into a 'hybrid technology-enhanced' offering." In addition to using innovative technology in his class, he redesigned his course as a "flipped" classroom model, "in which students watch pre-recorded lectures outside of class and participate in more interactive learning inside the classroom. . ." His goal for this flipped model is "to promote deeper learning for students." The article states, "he has taken a quantum leap this year in reimagining how to teach Contracts with online tools and a new understanding of how students learn."
The article states:
"Now Verkerke records most of his lectures sitting at his desk in his office while navigating PowerPoint slides for students to view at home. Class time is primarily reserved for problem-solving exercises, small-group discussions, and making sure students understand the materials and lectures they covered at night. The course is supported not only by a binder of collected readings, but also a website that allows Verkerke to post materials, administer quizzes and participate in online discussion forums."
For example, "The students' first exercise was to negotiate their own classroom policies, guided by a series of surveys whose results could be viewed real-time on a projector screen."
His course uses frequent formative assessment: "Unlike most law classes where grades are based on a single final exam, students' final grades will be based on multiple assignments throughout the semester, including frequent quizzes, written preparation for class, two midterm essay exams, simulations, and in-class exercises. Instead of the traditional final exam, students will prepare a final learning portfolio in which they collect examples of their work throughout the semester and write an essay that documents the content, scope, and quality of what they have learned, along with reflections about how they have developed as learners." More specifically, "Throughout the semester, students take quizzes at night so Verkerke can gauge their understanding of the materials. Most are true/false or multiple-choice, but the final question is open-ended and the same each time: 'What aspect(s) of the materials in this module did you find most difficult or confusing?'"
"Verkerke said he is transforming his courses so that students are not simply 'observers' in a classroom where a professor is engaging with only a few students. His goal is to have 'as many students making arguments as much of the time as possible, and having them listen to their classmates' arguments, and trying to persuade their peers and wrestle with difficult legal problems.'" "A key part of developing the ability to be a lifelong learner is to develop the capacity for self-reflection," Verkerke said. "And the purpose of this part of the course design is to help students develop that skill." He added, "The instructor is available to provide guidance and mentorship, to answer questions and to provoke students to think more deeply about the issues."
This is exactly the type of class that law schools should be teaching to better prepare their students for the contemporary legal world. Problem-solving exercises force students to apply what they have learned to facts, and studies have shown that students learn more when they apply their knowledge. Small-group discussions, along with the problem-solving exercises, make the students active learners, rather than passive receptacles as the Socratic method does. Education scholarship has determined that frequent formative assessment helps students learn more and remember more. I suspect that Verkerke's nightly quizzes are especially effective. He is also developing metacognitive learning by asking metacognitive questions to his students and causing them to self-reflect. (''What aspect(s) of the materials in this module did you find most difficult or confusing?' is a metacognitive question because it forces the students to "think about their thinking.")
In sum, Professor Verkerke's Contracts class is a model of what a law school class should be. Hats off to Professor Verkerke!
Essentially the game asks you to identify typos and grammatical errors in student papers under a time constraint by touching the screen. The game designers have incorporated some of the most statistically common writing errors into the game so you'll likely find yourself nodding in recognition as you play.
The Grading Game (iOS) makes you the TA of Dr. Snerpus, the meanest faculty member on campus, who demands that you flunk students for saying mean things about him on social media. You are then presented with a variety of papers with typographical and grammatical errors, and your job is to find them in a given amount of time. If you succeed, you will be able to pay off your (virtual) student loans. Game mechanics couldn’t be simpler: your finger is the red pen, and you tap errors to fix them. Beware, though: if you fat-finger the wrong line, or otherwise tap a correct word, you get a time penalty. And the pressure is on: If you don’t deliver average student grades in the C range or below, you don’t get paid!
. . . .
Although they are very short and not very well-written, the essays are arguably the best part of this game, as they draw facts from reddit’s page of especially interesting Wikipedia entries (how can you not love this speech by Soggy Sweat, Jr.?) According the game designers, the typos and grammatical errors are randomly generated from lists of the most statistically common such errors.
The literal-minded might object to several aspects of the game, such as the fact that it imagines a world where TAs are paid by the error, where it’s possible to earn more than $1000 for correcting a three-sentence essay, and where grading is fundamentally a hunt-the-typo enterprise. And there’s no doubt that for people who actually do grading, it’s a bit disorienting to shut down your normal grading instincts and focus only on typos and obvious grammatical errors. (For example, errors of citation–leaving out quotation marks around quotations, for example, are not recognized by the game. Similarly, writing that is awkward or vague or misleading, but not outright ungrammatical, is fine.)
I also would have to agree with Phil Scuderi‘s observation that the game isn’t really about either grading or grammar, but is rather about tricking your brain to see what is actually on the screen, rather than seeing the correct grammar that it expects. And it’s also true that there’s not a ton of variety in the game: it offers you one trick, and you either enjoy it or not.
But I will say that The Grading Game makes proofreading surprisingly engaging. By organizing each challenge into three 30-second increments, the game is a fun way to kill little pockets of time. While it’s no Kingdom Rush, It’s currently priced at $0.99, and there’s also a free version that lets you play a few levels before you plunk down your dollar.
I have no doubt that online courses will multiply in legal education—if for no other reason than that they make sense economically. However, there are some issues that need consideration.
At CNN.com, Douglas Rushkoff discusses the importance of thoughtful teacher-student interaction. Here is an excerpt:
First off, subjects tend to be conveyed best in what might be considered their native environments. Computers might not be the best place to simulate a live philosophy seminar, but they are terrific places to teach people how to use and program computers.
Second, and just as important, computers should not require the humans using them to become more robotic. I recently read an account from an online lecturer about how -- unlike in a real classroom -- he had to deliver his online video lectures according to a rigid script, where every action was choreographed. To communicate effectively online, he needed to stop thinking and living in the moment. That's not teaching; it's animatronics.
Online learning needs to cater to human users. A real instructor should not simply dump data on a person, as in a scripted video, but engage with students, consider their responses and offer individualized challenges.
The good, living teacher probes the way students think and offers counterexamples that open pathways. With the benefit of a perfect memory of student's past responses, a computer lesson should also be able to identify some of these patterns and offer up novel challenges at the right time. "How might Marx have responded to that suggestion, Joe?"